Review by Bkstunt_31
"Japanese RPG's aren't dead yet!"
Growlanser IV: Wayfayer of Time is, ironically enough, also the fourth Growlanser game to be released in America, following Growlanser II, III, and V (Growlanser I and VI have yet to come stateside). Fans of the series should rejoice if they haven't gotten to play this game yet, as it is everything Growlanser fans have come to expect of the series. Brought over to America by import super-publisher Atlus, who has blessed JRPG fans for years, if you're wondering what you can expect out of Growlanser IV you're in the right place! Read on!
The politics of war and human nature...
Like most Growlanser games, Wayfayer of Time centers heavily around politics, war and human nature. Many years ago, humans were nearly wiped out by heavenly beings called "Angels", but time has passed and civilization has grown anew and Angels become nothing but legends... You take on the roll of Crevanille, a young man employed as a mercenary who, during one fateful battle, happens to not only see an Angel in the sky but witnesses their destructive power. Will history repeat itself or can you change fate?
Needless to say, the story in Growlanser takes center stage. Mysteries are piled on top of intrigue and wrapped in enigma's, and I loved every minute of it. The main story itself is deep but it is surrounded by the politics of the world's four nations as well as they deal with war and human ambitions. The story is presented astronomically well, with perfect timing and regular world event updates being given to you at specific times to ensure that you know EXACTLY what is going on in the game. And just when you think things cannot possibly get any deeper... BAM!, they do!
If you're a fan of political intrigue and enjoy a good story, you will likely greatly enjoy the story behind Growlanser IV. If you're not a fan of story, you're playing the wrong game as this game has a LOT of dialog in it. Like I said earlier, the story is fantastically presented, but you also get a real sense of character growth as well as companion growth as you play though the game. The game also has over FORTY endings, which is crazy until you realize that a bunch of those endings are merely character endings. To be more specific, the game actually has three ROUTES that you can take for vastly different endings with several character specific endings. The game also features a way (no spoilers!) of having the game's current events told to you, just in case you ever get lost!
Real-time strategy... meets dating?
One big draw to the Growlanser series is that it isn't your typical old-style JRPG. Characters don't stand in a line and trade attacks until someone dies. Instead, the game is all about forcing you to think strategically. While you will get in random, meaningless fights and can grind to earn experience, learn skills and earn money the MAIN game is a series of missions. Each mission has its own set of victory and defeat conditions that at times goes well beyond "kill the enemy soldiers". You have complete control over each member of your party in every mission and can also pause the action at any time to assess the battlefield.
Unlike most tactical games, Growlanser IV has no grid-system for movement. Instead, during battle your character is free to move around wherever you tell them and can perform whatever actions you wish. Fighting is fairly simple with melee and magic options, but the game also utilizes the "ring weapon" system to let you customize your characters. Ring weapons are special rings characters wear to make weapons materialize, but each ring has slots in it as well. These slots are leveled and allow you to equip spellstones, knackstones, and skillstones to a ring. Fighting with stones equipped lets you learn whatever skills or spells are associated with those stones. You characters start our with virtually no abilities but over the course of the game you can learn a TON of different skills and spells. That's all on top of leveling up and buying new armor, of course.
Beyond the game's entertaining missions, Growlanser is also a relationship simulator. Crevanille can make friends with every party member and increase his friendship rating with them. The game features several vacations where you can talk to allies and take them to certain cities and shops, revealing unique dialog options. These relationship events ultimately lead to unique side quests and character specific endings.
In the end, the combat in Growlanser is fun and engaging, and its real-time battle system makes sure things don't get stale. Many people will undoubtedly not care about the relationship system, but I'm sure for many more people that is a big draw. Fans of tactical role-playing games will of course be more than happy with the game play.
Simple but beautiful...
The original Growlanser IV came out in Japan in 2003 on the PlayStation 2... and this PSP version doesn't look drastically different. Now, 2003 was NINE years ago, but to be fair the graphical style of the Growlanser series ages WELL. The graphics are heavily anime inspired, of course, and as such a decade can pass without any real problem. Character designs are well done throughout the game and animations are smooth and well done. Spell graphics are pretty basic but some of the higher level spells include animated scenes showing their power. You can skip spell animations as well, which is a godsend for experienced and uninterested players.
The game also features a lot of character portraits, as each important character you talk to has their own portrait pop up every time you talk to them. These portraits of course change their expressions from time to time, but are way better than just a text box. Background variety is well done. Even random dungeons will have details and items littered about with dialog popping up when you examine stuff. Unique cut-scenes and artwork litter the game and are always a joy to view but are few and far between.
From the moment I saw the opening video I knew I'd like the soundtrack in Growlanser IV, but as I played the game more and more I heard even more songs that instantly attached themselves to me. Battle tracks like "Your Memories", "Dawn" and "Crimson" are all really good and catchy. I also liked the very iconic "For You" track, as well as the very classical "Endless Road". There are also a lot of shorter tracks that manage to enhance the story and/or circumstances of the game while still remaining VERY catchy, such as "Shut Inside the Darkness". All in all, a very good soundtrack and well worth turning up your PSP's volume!
If you're getting your hopes up on voice acting, I hate to tell you but the game has none. Well... to be more honest, SOME of the animated cut-scenes ARE voice-acted, but compared to the amount of dialog in the game that's really a drop in the bucket. I'm sure that Atlas just views Growlanser as a niche series, which likely resulted in little voice acting.
So much to do, so little time...
I already mentioned earlier how the game has over FORTY endings and three routes to take, which is downright impressive, but Growlanser IV in and of itself is a rather long game even without all the endings. It features over 50 missions and a number of optional side-quests that you can undertake if you pay attention to the story (and you'll need to, as many of the side quests are NOT tracked for you). A lot of those side quests are required to reach certain character endings as well.
The game also let's you play a New Game + mode and keeps track of the endings you've seen. You can also participate in a battle arena as well as find collectible costumes for your fairy. Then there's of course those gamers out there who must master every skill and find every hidden treasure there is! There's a lot to do in this game if you want to see everything!
With an excellent and complex story, thoughtful game play, a catchy soundtrack and a plethora of endings Growlanser IV is a tactical gamers dream come true. Oh, and don't forget it's cheap $30 entry point. Granted, the PSP is on it's last days with the Vita already out, but if you're looking for a good RPG to play it's probably a good idea to pull it out, dust it off, and enjoy Growlanser IV. Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/12
Game Release: Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time (US, 07/31/12)
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